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"In Search of Paradise is a series of five inkjet prints of a lush, green forest in Holland. All but one of the images sets the viewer within the trees, the trunks pushing up and out of the frame, the leaves looming overhead, while the last one, taken from above, shows a path with a large branch broken laying off to the side of the road. There are no traces of humankind to be seen, no obvious sites of identification to place where or what, no impression of this being about man alone in the woods. Rather, fatmi spins the frequent clichés associated with that, turning the attention onto the forest itself, its own vulnerability, and its disappearance to deforestation and development that has made nature a highly contentious political platform.
In Search of Paradise is not about man’s own search, but about a search for the sacred, safe spaces that nature provides, so many of which are now controlled by unreliable powers and subject to devastation. Printed onto lightweight, silky fabric so that with any passerby the prints flutter about, underscores this fragility. This shift of style, the movement from lush forest to pure abstraction connects with fatmi’s own artistic practice, his frequent use of minimal forms and color palettes.
For the series of photographs, In Search of Paradise, fatmi was inspired by Mondrian’s drawing, Woods near Oele, c. 1906. For him, this piece represented a borderline between Mondrian’s past and his future innovations, a sort of confrontation between old and new, lyrical and formal aesthetics, abstraction and minimalism, deconstruction and modernity, provoking fatmi to contemplate the two sides of nature as well, the rich, protective resource and its confrontation with modernity.
Blaire Dessent, April 2017